Lincoln Movie Quotes: Intelligent Character Study(Total Quotes: 110)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Tony Kushner (screenplay)
Doris Kearns Goodwin (book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”)
Daniel Day-Lewis – Abraham Lincoln
Sally Field – Mary Todd Lincoln
David Strathairn – William Seward
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Robert Lincoln
James Spader – W.N. Bilbo
Hal Holbrook – Preston Blair
Tommy Lee Jones – Thaddeus Stevens
John Hawkes – Robert Latham
Jackie Earle Haley – Alexander Stephens
Bruce McGill – Edwin Stanton
Tim Blake Nelson – Richard Schell
Joseph Cross – John Hay
Jared Harris – Ulysses S. Grant
Lee Pace – Fernando Wood
Peter McRobbie – George Pendleton
Gulliver McGrath – Tad Lincoln
Gloria Reuben – Elizabeth Keckley
Jeremy Strong – John Nicolay
Michael Stuhlbarg – George Yeaman
Boris McGiver – Alexander Coffroth
David Costabile – James Ashley
Stephen Spinella – Asa Vintner Litton
Walton Goggins – Clay Hutchins
David Warshofsky – William Hutton
Colman Domingo – Private Harold Green
David Oyelowo – Corporal Ira Clark
Lukas Haas – First White Soldier
Dane DeHaan – Second White Soldier
OUR REVIEW & RATING ★★★½
In this is very un-Speilberg movie, Lincoln movie quotes deliver an engrossing and intellectual look at the last months of Lincoln’s life. This movie isn’t a biography as such, instead it gives us a mesmerizing characterization of the man during a very important period and focuses on Lincoln’s role in the long process of amending the United States constitution for the thirteenth time to abolish slavery, grant African Americans equality and in turn ending the Civil War.
Daniel Day-Lewis, giving yet another masterful performance, makes us see the human side of Lincoln rather than this iconic figure that everyone knows with all his imperfections displayed. And it’s not just Day-Lewis that delivers a compelling performance, pretty much all the characters represented here are given their moment to shine making this very talky movie a gripping character tale. The dialogue is smart and highly relevant but not without its flaws, for instance some scenes involving Lincoln’s personal life can feel a bit overblown.
Verdict: Despite the flaws, Lincoln is a richly detailed movie and the best way to view it is to go into it fully prepared for the heavy dialogue!
[first lines; we see a battle taking place in the rain with white and black soldiers killing each other]
Private Harold Green: [voice over] Some of us was in the Second Kansas Colored. We fought the rebs at Jenkins’ Ferry last April, just after they’d killed every Negro soldier they captured at Poison Springs. So at Jenkins’ Ferry, we decided weren’t taking no reb prisoners. And we didn’t leave a one of ’em alive. The ones of us that didn’t die that day, we joined up with the 116th U.S. Colored, sir. From Camp Nelson Kentucky.
[we see the soldier talking to Lincoln, who is sitting as it rains facing the soldiers]
Abraham Lincoln: What’s your name, soldier?
Private Harold Green: Private Harold Green, sir.
Corporal Ira Clark: I’m Corporal Ira Clark, sir. Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry. We’re waiting over there. We’re leaving our horses behind, and shipping out with the 24th Infantry for the assault next week on Wilmington.
Abraham Lincoln: How long have you been a soldier?
Private Harold Green: Two year, sir.
Abraham Lincoln: Second Kansas Colored Infantry, they fought bravely at Jenkins’ Ferry.
Private Harold Green: That’s right, sir.
Corporal Ira Clark: They killed a thousand rebel soldiers, sir. They were very brave. And making three dollars less each month than white soldiers.
[Ira starts stepping closer towards Lincoln]
Private Harold Green: Us Second Kansas boys….
Corporal Ira Clark: Another three dollars subtracted from our pay for our uniforms.
Private Harold Green: That was true, yes, sir, but that changed…
Corporal Ira Clark: Equal pay now, but still no commissioned Negro officers.
Abraham Lincoln: I am aware of that, Corporal Clark.
Corporal Ira Clark: Yes, sir, that’s good that you’re aware, sir. It’s only that…
[to Lincoln, trying to change the subject]
Private Harold Green: Do you think the Wilmington attack is gonna be…
Corporal Ira Clark: Now that white people have accustomed themselves to seeing Negro men with guns, fighting on their behalf, and now that they can tolerate Negro soldiers getting equal pay, maybe in a few years they can abide the idea of Negro lieutenants and captains. In fifty years, maybe a Negro colonel. In a hundred years, the vote.
Abraham Lincoln: What’ll you do after the war, Corporal Clark?
Corporal Ira Clark: Work, sir. Perhaps you’ll hire me.
Abraham Lincoln: Perhaps I will.
Corporal Ira Clark: But you should know, sir, that I get sick at the smell of bootblack and I cannot cut hair.
Abraham Lincoln: I’ve yet to find a man could cut mine so it’d make any difference.
Private Harold Green: You got springy hair for a white man.
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, I do. My last barber hanged himself. And the one before that. Left me his scissors in his will.
[two white soldiers come up towards Lincoln as he finishes talking to Harold and Clark]
First White Soldier: President Lincoln, sir?
Abraham Lincoln: Evening, boys.
Second White Soldier: We saw you. We were at uh…
First White Soldier: We was at Gettysburg!
Private Harold Green: You boys fight at Gettysburg?
First White Soldier: No, we didn’t fight there. We just signed up last month. We saw him two years ago at the cemetery dedication.
Second White Soldier: Yeah, we heard you speak. We…uh, damn, damn, damn! Uh, hey, how tall are you anyway?
First White Soldier: Jeez, shut up!
Abraham Lincoln: Could you hear what I said?
First White Soldier: No, sir, not much, it was…
[the second soldier starts reciting]
Second White Soldier: ‘Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth from this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’
Abraham Lincoln: That’s good, thank you.
[the first soldier continues reciting]
First White Soldier: ‘Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are…we are…we are met on a great battlefield of that war.’
Abraham Lincoln: That’s good. Thank you.
[the second solider then continues reciting]
Second White Soldier: ‘We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is…’
[he chokes up a little]
First White Soldier: His uncles, they died on the second day of fighting.
Second White Soldier: I know the last part. ‘It is, uh…it is rather…’
[a soldier calls out for the soldiers to move out]
Abraham Lincoln: Boys, best go and find your company. Thank you.
First White Soldier: Thank you, sir. God bless you!
[he salutes Lincoln]
Abraham Lincoln: God bless you too. God bless you.
[the two soldiers turn and move out to join their company]
[as the soldiers start moving out, Lincoln stands, then Clark starts reciting]
Corporal Ira Clark: ‘That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.’
[Clark turns and starts walking away as he continues to recite]
Corporal Ira Clark: ‘That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’
[Lincoln watches Clark as he walks off into the fog]
[January 1865 – Two months have passed since Abraham Lincoln’s re-election, the American Civil War is now in its fourth year; we see Lincoln staring out towards a barely discernible horizon, which is only visible by a flickering glowing light receding faster than the approaching ship]
Abraham Lincoln: [voice over] It’s night time. The ship’s moved by some terrible power, at a terrific speed. Though it’s imperceptible in the darkness, I have an intuition that we’re headed towards a shore. No one else seems to be aboard the vessel. I’m very keenly aware of my aloneness.
[at the White House Lincoln sits in a chair and describes a dream he’s had to his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln]
Abraham Lincoln: I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. I reckon it’s the speed that’s strange to me. I’m used to going at a deliberate pace. I should spare you, Molly. I shouldn’t tell you my dreams.
Mary Todd Lincoln: I don’t want to be spared if you aren’t! And you spare me nothing. Perhaps it’s…it’s the assault on Wilmington port. You dream about the ship before a battle, usually.
Abraham Lincoln: How’s the coconut?
Mary Todd Lincoln: Beyond description.
[Mary touches her forehead]
Mary Todd Lincoln: Almost two years, nothing mends. Another casualty of the war. Who wants to listen to a useless woman grouse about her carriage accident?
Abraham Lincoln: I do.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Stuff! You tell me dreams, that’s all, I’m your soothsayer, that’s all I am to you anymore, I’m not to be trusted. Even if it was not a carriage accident, even if it was an attempted assassination.
Abraham Lincoln: It was most probably an accident.
Mary Todd Lincoln: It was an assassin. Whose intended target was you.
Abraham Lincoln: How are the, uh… plans coming along for the big shindy?
Mary Todd Lincoln: I don’t wanna talk about parties! You don’t care about parties.
Abraham Lincoln: Not much but they’re a necessary hindrance.
Mary Todd Lincoln: I know…I know what it’s about. The ship, it’s not Wilmington Port, it’s not a military campaign! It’s the amendment to abolish slavery! Why else would you force me to invite demented radicals into my home?
[Lincoln closes the file he had in his hands]
Mary Todd Lincoln: You’re gonna try to get the amendment passed in the House of Representatives, before the term ends, before the Inauguration?
Abraham Lincoln: Don’t spend too much money on the flub dubs.
[Lincoln stand and Mary goes up to him]
Mary Todd Lincoln: No one’s loved as much as you, no one’s ever been loved so much, by the people, you might do anything now. Don’t…don’t waste that power on an amendment bill that’s sure of defeat.
[Lincoln doesn’t reply or look at her, Mary turns away from him]
Mary Todd Lincoln: Did you remember Robert’s coming home for the reception?
Mary Todd Lincoln: I knew you’d forget.
[Mary closes the bedroom window and turns to Lincoln who is now walking out of the room]
Mary Todd Lincoln: That’s the ship you’re sailing on. The Thirteenth Amendment. You needn’t tell me I’m right. I know I am.
[as Lincoln walks out of the room he runs into Mary’s dressmaker]
Abraham Lincoln: It’s late, Mrs. Keckley.
[referring to the dress she’s carrying]
Elizabeth Keckley: Oh, she needs this for the grand reception.
[Lincoln leans forward and looks at the large beaded necklace]
Elizabeth Keckley: It’s slow work.
Abraham Lincoln: Good night.
[Lincoln starts to walk off, as Mrs. Keckley is about enter Mary’s room she turns to Lincoln]
Elizabeth Keckley: Did you tell her a dream?
[Lincoln doesn’t reply and walks off]
[Lincoln goes into his office and finds his young son, Tad, asleep on the floor by the fireplace, several slave plates of photographs are next to Tad, Lincoln sees that they are of young African American children who were up for auction, Lincoln then wakes his son up and carries him to bed]
Tad Lincoln: Papa…?
Abraham Lincoln: Hmm?
Tad Lincoln: Papa, I wanna see Willie.
Abraham Lincoln: Me too, Taddie. But we can’t.
Tad Lincoln: Why not?
Abraham Lincoln: Willie’s gone. Three years now. He’s gone.
[A new flagpole is being dedicated, Lincoln takes a piece of paper from inside his hat starts reading from it, addressing the crowd]
Abraham Lincoln: The part assigned to me is to raise the flag, which, if there be no fault in the machinery, I will do, and when up, it’ll be for the people to keep it up.
[he puts the paper away back in his hat]
Abraham Lincoln: That’s my speech.
[Lincoln smiles and the crowd laughs and claps for him and he starts raising the flag]
[riding in the carriage with Lincoln]
William Seward: Even if every Republican in the House votes yes, far from guaranteed, since when has our party unanimously supported anything? But say all our fellow Republicans vote for it. We’d still be twenty votes short.
Abraham Lincoln: Only twenty?
William Seward: Only twenty!
Abraham Lincoln: We can find twenty votes.
William Seward: Twenty House Democrats who will vote to abolish slavery. In my opinion…
Abraham Lincoln: To which I always listen.
William Seward: Or pretend to.
Abraham Lincoln: With all three of my ears.
William Seward: We’ll win the war soon. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?
Abraham Lincoln: Well, it ain’t won yet.
William Seward: You’ll begin your second term with semi-divine stature. Imagine the possibilities peace will bring! Why tarnish your invaluable luster with a battle in the House? It’s a rats’ nest in there, it’s the same gang of talentless hicks and hacks who rejected the amendment ten months ago. We’ll lose.
Abraham Lincoln: I like our chances now.
[at Lincoln’s office in the White House, Lincoln is signing papers his secretary is giving him]
William Seward: Well, consider the obstacles that we’d face. The aforementioned two-thirds majority needed to pass an amendment. We have a Republican majority, but barely more than fifty percent…
Abraham Lincoln: Fifty-six.
William Seward: We need Democratic support. There’s none to be had.
Abraham Lincoln: Since the House last voted on the amendment there’s been an election, and sixty-four Democrats lost their House seats in November. That’s sixty-four Democrats looking for work come March.
William Seward: I know.
Abraham Lincoln: They don’t need to worry about re-election, they can vote however it suits ’em.
William Seward: But we can’t, uh…buy the vote for the amendment. It’s too important.
[there’s a knock at the office door and Hay goes to open the door]
Abraham Lincoln: I said nothing of buying anything. We need twenty votes was all I said. Start of my second term, plenty of positions to fill.
[another one of Lincoln’s secretaries enters Lincoln’s office]
John Nicolay: Mr. President, may I present Mr. and Mrs. Jolly who’ve come from Missouri to…
Mr. Jolly: From Jeff City, President.
[Lincoln shakes Jolly’s hand]
Abraham Lincoln: Mr. Jolly. Ma’am. This here by the fire is Secretary of State Seward.
Abraham Lincoln: Jeff City. I heard tell once of a Jefferson City lawyer who had a parrot that’d wake him each morning crying out, ‘Today is the day the world shall end, as scripture has foretold.’ And uh…one day the lawyer shot him for the sake of peace and quiet, I presume, thus fulfilling, for the bird at least, his prophecy!
[Lincoln smiles, but the Jollys look at Lincoln with blank faces, not getting it]
[Seward gestures for Jolly to speak]
Mr. Jolly: They’s only one tollbooth in Jeff City, to the southwest and this man Heinz Sauermagen from Rolla been in illegal possession for near two years, since your man General Schofield set him up there. But President Monroe give that tollgate to my granpap and Quincy Adams give my pap a letter saying it’s our’n for keeps. Mrs. Jolly got the…
[looking at his wife]
Mr. Jolly: Show Mr. Lincoln the Quincy Adams letter.
Abraham Lincoln: Oh, that’s unnecessary, Mrs. Jolly. Just tell me what you want from me.
[as Seward is smoking near Jolly, he starts coughing from the smoke and his wife tries to fan the smoke away]
Mrs. Jolly: Mr. Jolly’s emphysema don’t care for the cigar.
William Seward: Madame. Do you know about the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution?
Mrs. Jolly: Yes, sir, everybody knows of it. That the President favors it.
William Seward: Do you?
Mrs. Jolly: We do.
William Seward: You know that it abolishes slavery?
Mrs. Jolly: Yes, sir. I know it.
William Seward: And is that why you favor it?
Mrs. Jolly: What I favor is ending the war. Once we do away with slavery, the rebs’ll quit fighting, since slavery’s what they’re fighting for. Mr. Lincoln, you always says so. With the amendment, slavery’s ended and they’ll up. The war can finish then.
William Seward: If the war finished first, before we end slavery, would…
Mrs. Jolly: President Lincoln says the war won’t stop unless we finish slavery…
William Seward: But if it did. The South is exhausted. If they run out of, uh…bullets and men, would you still want your, uh…
William Seward: Who’s your representative?
Abraham Lincoln: Jeff City? That’s, uh…Congressman Burton?
Mrs. Jolly: ‘Beanpole’ Burton, I mean, Josiah Burton, yes, sir!
Abraham Lincoln: A Republican. Undecided on the question of the amendment, I believe. Perhaps you could call on him and inform him of your enthusiasm.
Mrs. Jolly: Yeah.
William Seward: Madam? If the rebels surrender next week, would you, at the end of this month, want Congressman Burton to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment?
[Mrs. Jolly hesitates for a moment]
Mrs. Jolly: If that was how it was, no more war and all, I reckon Mr. Jolly much prefer not to have Congress pass the amendment.
William Seward: Mm.
[Seward looks at Lincoln]
William Seward: And uh…why is that?
Mr. Jolly: Niggers.
Mrs. Jolly: If he don’t have to let some Alabama coon come up to Missouri, steal his chickens, and his job, he’d much prefer that.
[Lincoln looking disappointed turns, Seward takes the letter from Mrs. Jolly and hands it to him]
William Seward: The people. I begin to see why you’re in such a great hurry to put it through.
Abraham Lincoln: Would you let me study this letter, sir, about the tollbooth? Come back to me in the morning and we’ll consider what the law says.
[Lincoln stands and turns to the Jollys]
Abraham Lincoln: And be sure to visit ‘Beanpole’ and tell him that you support passage of the Amendment. As a military necessity.
Mr. Jolly: Thank you.
[Nicolay escorts the Jollys out]
Abraham Lincoln: Oh, Nicolay? When you have a moment.
[Seward closes the office door]
[after the Jolly’s leave the office]
William Seward: If procuring votes with offers of employment is what you intend, I’ll fetch a friend from Albany who can supply the skulking men gifted at this kind of shady work. Spare me the indignity of actually speaking to Democrats. Spare you the exposure and liability.
[there’s a knock at the door]
Abraham Lincoln: Pardon me, that’s a distress signal, which I am bound by solemn oath to respond to.
[Lincoln opens the door and Tad enters]
Tad Lincoln: Tom Pendel took away the glass camera plates of slaves Mr. Gardner sent over because Tom says mama says they’re too distressing, but…
Abraham Lincoln: You had nightmares all night, mama’s right to…
Tad Lincoln: But I’ll have worse nightmares if you don’t let me look at the plates again!
Abraham Lincoln: Perhaps.
[Lincoln walks Tad over to his desk and they sit]
William Seward: We can’t afford a single defection from anyone in the party, not even a single Republican absent when they vote. You know who you’ve got to see.
Abraham Lincoln: Send over to Blair House. Ask Preston Blair can I call on him around five o’clock.
William Seward: God help you. God alone knows what he’ll ask you to give him.
[Lincoln meets with Preston Blair at his house in the hopes of persuading him to lend his support to the Amendment]
Abraham Lincoln: If the Blairs tell ’em to, no Republican will balk at voting for the amendment.
Montgomery Blair: No conservative Republican is what you mean.
Preston Blair: All Republicans ought to be conservative, I founded this party in my own Goddamned home to be a conservative antislavery party, not a hobbyhorse for Goddamned radical abolitionists and…
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Damp down the dyspepsia, daddy, you’ll frighten the child.
Montgomery Blair: You need us to keep the conservative side of the party in the traces while you diddle the radicals and bundle up with Thaddeus Stevens’s gang. You need our help!
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, sir, I do.
Montgomery Blair: Well, what do we get?
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Wooh! Blunt! Your manners, Monty, must be why Mr. Lincoln pushed you out of his cabinet.
Preston Blair: He was pushed out…
Montgomery Blair: I wasn’t pushed!
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Oh of course you weren’t.
Preston Blair: He was pushed out to placate the Goddamn radical abolitionists!
Montgomery Blair: I agreed to resign.
[nodding towards Tad]
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Oh Daddy, please! Daddy.
Preston Blair: Oh, you don’t mind, boy, do you?
Abraham Lincoln: He spends his days with soldiers.
Tad Lincoln: They taught me a song!
Preston Blair: Did they?
Preston Blair: Soldiers know all manner of songs. How’s your brother Bob?
[Blair holds out his hands and Tad comes over and holds his hands]
Tad Lincoln: He’s at school now, but he’s coming to visit in four days. For the shindy.
Preston Blair: At school! Ain’t that fine. Good he’s not in the army.
Tad Lincoln: He wants to be, but mama said he can’t…
Preston Blair: Dangerous life, soldiering.
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Your mama is wise to keep him clean out of that.
Preston Blair: Now your daddy knows that what I want, in return for all the help I give him, is to go down to Richmond like he said I could, as soon as Savannah fell, and talk to Jefferson Davis. An give me terms I can offer to Jefferson Davis to start negotiating for peace. He’ll talk to me.
Montgomery Blair: Conservative members of your party wants you to listen to overtures from Richmond. That above all! They’ll vote for this rash and dangerous amendment only if every other possibility is exhausted.
Preston Blair: Our Republicans ain’t abolitionists. Now we can’t tell our people they can vote yes on abolishing slavery unless at the same time we can tell ’em that you’re seekin’ a negotiated peace.
[later on that night we see Blair leaving in his carriage to go and begin his negotiations in secret]
[the cabinet has assembled in Lincoln’ Office at the White House]
Abraham Lincoln: Thunder forth, God of War!
Edwin Stanton: We’ll commence our assault on Wilmington from the sea.
[Stanton holds up the edge of the map which is singed]
Edwin Stanton: Why is this burnt? Was the boy playing with it?
Abraham Lincoln: It got took by a breeze several nights back.
Edwin Stanton: This is an official War Department map!
William Seward: And the entire cabinet’s waiting to hear what it portends.
Gideon Welles: A bombardment. From the largest fleet the Navy has ever assembled.
Abraham Lincoln: Old Neptune! Shake thy hoary locks!
[Welles stands and points to the positions on the map]
Gideon Welles: Fifty-eight ships are underway, of every tonnage and firing range.
Edwin Stanton: We’ll keep up a steady barrage. Our first target is Fort Fisher. It defends Wilmington Port.
James Speed: A steady barrage?
Edwin Stanton: A hundred shells a minute. Till they surrender.
William Fessenden: Dear God!
Gideon Welles: Yes. Yes.
Abraham Lincoln: Wilmington’s their last open seaport. Therefore…
Edwin Stanton: Wilmington falls, Richmond falls after.
William Seward: And the war is done.
[the rest of the cabinet applaud by table slapping]
[as the cabinet meeting continues, Usher stands in frustration and looks at Lincoln]
John Usher: Then why, if I might ask, are we not concentrating the nation’s attention on Wilmington? Why, instead, are we reading in the Herald that the anti-slavery amendment is being recipitated onto the House floor for debate because your eagerness, in what seems an unwarranted intrusion of the Executive into Legislative prerogatives, is compelling it to it’s… to what’s likely to be its premature demise?
[there’s a pause as the others agree]
John Usher: You signed the Emancipation Proclamation, you’ve done all that can be expected…
James Speed: The Emancipation Proclamation’s merely a war measure. After the war the courts’ll make a meal of it.
John Usher: When Edward Bates was Attorney General, he felt confident in it enough to allow you to sign…
James Speed: Different lawyers, different opinions. It frees slaves as a military exigent, not in any other…
Abraham Lincoln: I don’t recall Bates being any too certain about the legality of my Proclamation, just it wasn’t downright criminal.
[Lincoln laughs as do some of the other cabinet members]
Abraham Lincoln: Somewhere’s in between. Back when I rode the legal circuit in Illinois I defended a woman from Metamora named Melissa Goings, 77 years old, they said she murdered her husband, he was 83. He was choking her, and uh…she grabbed a hold of a stick of fire-wood and fractured his skull, and he died. In his will he wrote.
[Lincoln laughs as he speaks]
Abraham Lincoln: ‘I expect she has killed me. If I get over it, I will have revenge.’
[this gets another laugh]
Abraham Lincoln: No one was keen to see her convicted, he was that kind of husband. I asked the prosecuting attorney if I might have a short conference with my client. She and I went into a room in the courthouse, but I alone emerged. The window in the room was found to be wide open. It was believed the old lady may have climbed out of it. I told the bailiff right before I left her in the room she asked me where she could get a good drink of water, and I told her Tennessee.
[this gets another laugh from everyone in the room]
Abraham Lincoln: Mrs. Goings was seen no more in Metamora. Enough justice had been done, they even forgave the bondsman her bail.
John Usher: I’m afraid I don’t see…
Abraham Lincoln: I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don’t exist. I don’t know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution, which I decided meant that I could take the rebels’ slaves from them as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course I don’t, never have, I’m glad to see any man free, and if calling a man property, or war contraband, does the trick. Why I caught at the opportunity. Now here’s where it gets truly slippery. I use the law allowing for the seizure of property in a war knowing it applies only to the property of governments and citizens of belligerent nations. But the South ain’t a nation, that’s why I can’t negotiate with them. So if in fact the Negroes are property according to law, have I the right to take the rebels’ property from them, if I insist they’re rebels only, and not citizens of a belligerent country? And slipperier still; I maintain it ain’t our actual Southern states in rebellion, but only the rebels living in those states, the laws of which states remain in force. The laws of which states remain in force. That means, that since it’s states’ laws that determine whether Negroes can be sold as slaves, as property, the Federal government doesn’t have a say in that, least not yet. Then Negroes in those states are slaves, hence property, hence my war powers allow me to confiscate ’em as such. So I confiscated ’em. But if I’m a respecter of states’ laws, how then can I legally free ’em with my Proclamation, as I done, unless I’m canceling states’ laws?
[Lincoln pauses for a moment]
Abraham Lincoln: I felt the war demanded it, my oath demanded it, I felt right with myself, and I hoped it was legal to do it, I’m hoping still.
[as Lincoln continues his speech to his cabinet members]
Abraham Lincoln: Two years ago I proclaimed these people emancipated, ‘then, thenceforward and forever free.’ Well let’s say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that. Say there’s no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it’s after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts’ decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That’s why I’d like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, and on its way to ratification by the states, wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I’m able. Now! End of this month! And I’d like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet’s most always done.
[there’s a moment of silence]
Abraham Lincoln: As the preacher said, I could write shorter sermons but once I start I get too lazy to stop.
[this gets a laugh from the cabinet members]
[Usher stands and addresses Lincoln]
John Usher: It seems to me, sir, you’re describing precisely the sort of dictator the Democrats have been howling about.
James Speed: Dictators aren’t susceptible to law.
John Usher: Neither is he! He just said as much! Ignoring the courts? Twisting meanings? What…what reins him in from…from…
Abraham Lincoln: Well, the people do that, I suppose. I signed the Emancipation Proclamation a year and half before my second election. I felt I was within my power to do it, however, I also felt that I might be wrong about that, I knew the people would tell me. I gave ’em a year and half to think about it. And they re-elected me. And come February the first, I intend to sign the Thirteenth Amendment.
[Ashley enters Lincoln’s office, he sees Tad sitting by the window reading a book, then Lincoln enters with Seward]
Abraham Lincoln: Well, Mr. Representative Ashley! Tell us the news from the Hill.
[Lincoln shakes Ashley’s hand]
James Ashley: Ah! Well, the news…
Abraham Lincoln: Why for instance is this thus, and what is the reason for this thusness?
William Seward: James, we want you to bring the anti-slavery amendment to the floor for debate immediately…
James Ashley: Excuse me. What?
William Seward: You are the amendment’s manager, are you not?
James Ashley: I am, of course. But, immediately?
William Seward: And we’re counting on robust radical support, so tell Mr. Stevens we expect him to put his back into it, it’s not going to be easy, but we trust…
James Ashley: It’s impossible. No, I am sorry, no, we can’t organize anything immediately in the House. I have been canvassing the Democrats since the election, in case any of them have softened after they got walloped. But they have stiffened if anything, Mr. Secretary. There aren’t nearly enough votes…
Abraham Lincoln: We’re whalers, Mr. Ashley!
[Lincoln stands and puts his hands on Ashley’s shoulders]
James Ashley: Whalers? As in, uh…whales?
Abraham Lincoln: We’ve been chasing this whale for a long time. We’ve finally placed a harpoon in the monster’s back. It’s in, James, it’s in! We finish the deed now, we can’t wait! Or with one flop of his tail he’ll smash the boat and send us all to eternity!
William Seward: On the 31st of this month. Of this year. Put the amendment up for a vote.
[Ashley stares blankly at Seward and Lincoln]
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